User uShare Login | Register
Login
Register

Along with posting photos, videos, and stories, your uShare account lets you post Classified Ads, recipes on What's For Dinner, and Announcements.


45° View Weather Current Conditions Sioux Falls Change Location
Set Weather Options

RADAR LOCATION

TEMPERATURE LOCATION

KELOLAND.com | Sioux Falls News & Weather, South Dakota News & Weather, Minnesota and Iowa News

[0] My Saved Articles
Find local businesses
on the KELO Pages!

 

Recognizing An Ace

August 6, 2012, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Recognizing An Ace
ABERDEEN, SD -

Having shot down dozens of planes, you've likely heard about World War II hero Cecil Harris from Cresbard. Or have you?
    
Despite his impressive war record, the South Dakota native is relatively unknown. But a group of veterans is working to change that.

"It was just astounding what all he had accomplished during World War II," Gerald Krueger said.

Krueger was on the alumni board at Northern State University in the 1990s when he and others were looking for famous former students to recognize. That's when he came across Navy veteran Cecil Harris’ name.

Krueger hadn’t heard of Harris so he started researching the Cresbard native. Ken Schroeder of Rapid City came across Harris' name in 2007.

"I spent 30 years in the Navy and I had never heard of him. And I'm a South Dakota boy and I'd never heard of him. His service, Cecil Harris' service and mine overlapped by seven years and I had never heard of him," Schroeder said.

So he also started researching and couldn't believe what he found.

As a Navy fighter pilot, Harris shot down 24 enemy planes during World War II. Most of those came during a few month-stretch serving in the Pacific when he didn't even get a scratch on his own plane.

"Second highest scoring ace in the Unites States Navy; most highly decorated reserve pilot of the war," Schroeder said.

Stories behind those numbers surprised Schroeder and Krueger as well. In Murdo, South Dakota, Harold Thune can share plenty of Harris stories.

"There were a lot of good pilots. Most of the kids who were in were good pilots, but he was exceptional," Thune said. "He was just a cut above."

A Navy pilot himself, Thune served in the same squadron as Harris. Thune was even the best man in his wedding. But thanks to Harris' skill in the sky, their connection goes beyond that.

"He did teach me a tactic that probably saved my life," Thune said.

That was a tactic to avoid an enemy plane if one arrives on your tail. Thune is convinced Harris saved numerous other lives too. As the war played out, well-known war heroes surfaced; Thune says Harris ranks among them.

"Definitely, very definitely,” Thune said. “I don't know why he didn't get the attention."

And that's the question a group of people working to bring attention to Harris’ war record is asking.

People in the group have placed a sign near Harris' hometown of Cresbard. And the state highway leading to it is named after him as well.

They're half way into a fundraising effort to pay for a bronze of Harris to sit on the Northern State University campus.  Harris is no longer living but those working to get him more recognition are also trying to get him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

"This guy never really got the recognition we felt he deserves," Schroeder said.

"It wasn't like somebody was wounded and he picked them up and walked them through rifle fire to get them back or something like that. But just the accomplishments of what he did certainly were very noteworthy. And the Congressional Medal of Honor would not be out of line for him at all," Thune said.

Thune says Harris was given a training position beyond his rank during the war because he was such a successful pilot.  But he didn't draw attention to his accomplishments either. So Thune is pleased to see others doing so now.

"He was an inspiration,” Thune said. “You were glad to be a part of it."

Anyone interested in contributing to the fundraising effort for the Harris sculpture on the NSU campus can send contributions to:

Northern State University Foundation
620 15th Ave SE
Aberdeen, SD 57401

Make check payable to Cecil Harris Statue NSU Foundation.
 

Previous Story

Next Story


Comments





Sponsored
Find Local Businesses on KELO Pages!

View featured stories

You may also like

The Inner Inmate

3/24/2015 10:25 PM

From paintings to sketches, artists behind all the work are or were inmates in South Dakota prisons. Organizers hope the show inspires its visitors.

Full Story | Watch
iPads For Preschoolers

3/22/2015 10:15 PM

While most homes have a tablet or an iPad these days, most child care centers and preschools do not.

Full Story | Watch
Inside KELOLAND: School Election & Head Injuries

3/22/2015 3:39 PM

Decision day is a little more than three weeks away for voters in South Dakota's largest school district.  On April 14th, Sioux Falls voters ...

Full Story | Watch
Curbing Conflict Of Interest

3/26/2015 10:16 PM

South Dakota lawmakers hope conflict of interest legislation can curb questions over state contracts in the future, after a former state employee'...

Full Story | Watch
Less Lethal Law Enforcement

3/27/2015 10:12 PM

Separate officer-involved shootings in Rapid City last year left two men dead and ignited talk about whether police should use lethal weapons when con...

Full Story | Watch


Events